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Comparison Review: Gilmore Lite DPS vs Elpac

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Intro

Sign #1,057 that Head-Fi's gotten ahold of you: you start acquiring components for the sole purpose of writing about them to share with the community of zany headphiles. Such is the case with this. I originally acquired the Gilmore Lite v2 w/ DPS in December '06 - the Limited Edition, that is. Not that the internals of either the amp or DPS differ from the normal units available in silver - after all, that's what HeadAmp stated. So in order to find out exactly what makes the GL+DPS such a winning set that HeadAmp combined the two for the LE, I got my hands on another GL w/ Elpac, for a comparison. Not that I couldn't have done this comparison without another amp, I could've easily acquired only the Elpac - that idea however was tossed out the window when I realized the practical uselessness of having an Elpac without an amp to go with it.

To ensure that the amps were indeed identical, I swapped power supplies on both of them regularly - installing the DPS on the silver unit and the Elpac on the black unit, and then back again. There was no question that the amps were identical.

To maintain signal integrity, the dual analog RCA outputs of the Arcam were put to use once again - one pair of Silver Res Analog ICs feeding to one amp, another pair of Silver Res Analog feeding to the other amp. This was done to reduce any effect that the loop out of either amp might have induced.

Equipment Used

Source: Arcam DiVA CD73
Power cord: Signal Cable Magic Power Digital Reference
Interconnects: Signal Cable Silver Resolution Analog (2)
Headphones: AKG K701, Audio-Technica ATH-AD2000

Test CDs

Alison Krauss - Now That I've Found You
Jewel - Spirit
Laika - Wherever I Am I Am What Is Missing
Neotropic - Mr. Brubaker's Strawberry Alarm Clock
Orbital - Middle of Nowhere
Porcupine Tree - Deadwing

Pics


(click for larger versions)

Listening Impressions

No individual breakout sections on the various aspects of sound delivery for this review. That would just be overstating any differences - because the DPS didn't turn the Gilmore Lite into a whole new amp. In the same way that interconnects improve amps or power cords improve sources, the DPS merely improved the Gilmore Lite, it didn't turn it into something it wasn't. So instead of lengthy descriptions that don't need to be stated and would inflate the proportions of the upgrade, a list of the very specific points that I found the DPS improved on the Elpac:

- In the aspect of "air," there are two ways to perceive the effect of the DPS. (1) It added another layer of air to the sound, helping to "see" further into the music, beyond a mere two-dimensional image, almost getting to that rare introspective level. (2) Or alternately, it removed a curtain that otherwise blocks the free flow of music around the soundstage. It should be very clearly noted though I only refer to a layer of air here, not layers of air - as I didn't get a sense that the amp was lifting multiple curtains - if there were 3 curtains blocking the soundstage for example, it sounded as if the DPS removed only 1 of them. Still, the effect of the DPS was noticeable here, as it gave an increased sense of "float" and projection, taking it a step in the direction of the GS-1 in this aspect.

- The DPS also improved attack. For those unfamiliar with attack, it is not the same thing as "impact," as the word "impact" can be used in various ways, most often in relation to mid-bass. Attack refers to how quickly a note reaches its full intended volume. Slow attack usually sounds like the pace of the music is chugging, as if it's having timing issues, with notes sounding weak or as if they're micro-seconds off, and is always most noticeable with wide-ranging dynamics on notes in the treble (or music that incorporates multiple concurrent layers, one of which is percussion-based). Not that the amp had a slow attack with the Elpac, not saying that at all - au contraire, the Gilmore Lite already has a very swift attack on its own. But the DPS took it to the next level, giving even greater snap, control, & energy around the leading edges of notes, and a better perception of power and presence. The difference was more noticeable on a downgrade (DPS to Elpac) rather than the upgrade (Elpac to DPS) - without the DPS, notes sounded as if they were ever-so-slightly off and weaker on the up-slope.

- Bass was better controlled on the DPS too. I wouldn't say it had increased extension, as the amp w/ Elpac already nearly approximated the extension of the AD2000 (if not beyond), but there was noticeably better control. There was a slight sense of flab with the Elpac, almost in the territory of being splashy and borderline boomy. The DPS cleaned this up, throwing out the flab and re-compensating it with a tighter grip to provide very clean, very clear slams & bass undercurrents. Yup, undercurrents. The DPS was also better able to handle extremely low bass notes - it dug deeper, gave greater depth, and overall provided more force (within control) over super-low notes to give them an extra teeth-rattling, crawling-under-your-skin factor.

- In terms of AC power noise, I could detect none even with the Elpac, but that doesn't mean the DPS wasn't providing cleaner power, I just couldn't tell. The DPS did give a blacker background though, as notes seemed to spark off out of nowhere on it, whereas the Elpac was very slightly less distinct on point of origin (although very quiet on its own too).

- The ATH-AD2000 also seemed to carry more tonal weight (lower mid overtones) with the DPS over the Elpac.

- The DPS was also sensitive to aftermarket power cords, though not a whole lot. I was able to run it with a Black Sand Violet Z1, Iron Lung Jellyfish, and Signal Cable Magic Power Digital Reference, and there were very subtle, differing improvements with each one in comparison to an 18 AWG IEC cord - increased blackness to the background, even more improved attack, deeper soundstage, cleaner instrument separation.

- Last but not least, the DPS also provided a clearer, more intangible sense of music "flowing" through the soundstage. More fluid, more at ease, more elusive "all is right with the world" x-factor.

Conclusion

For me there was no question. The DPS offered a clear advantage over the Elpac. However, I should add that these differences are more subtle than they might read - they weren't immediately noticeable and it took repeated listens for most of them to really stick out (the bass aspect was the only one that was immediately noticed). More to the point, they were also differences that only an "audiophile" would hear - for those who have never heard high-end audio before, I seriously doubt you'd notice these improvements.

So is the DPS worth an added $200 on top of the Gilmore Lite? That's a tough call to make. I will say though that moving to the Gilmore Lite from a <$100 amp (or no amp at all) is up-slope progress, but the DPS is on the down-slope to diminishing returns. I'll leave the answer to the question open - it can be only your guess if you want to spend $200 for incremental improvements. The GL+DPS is still a very fine set for mid-fi audio, and it's a scary good step on the road towards the GS-1 - a sampler, if you will - if the GS-1 is beyond your budget.


Post #3,060
post #2 of 19
Besides all of that, it looks cool.

(Nice write up)
post #3 of 19
Another solid review. Your effort and time spent is much appreciated. It sounds like the effect of the DPS on the Lite is similar to aftermarket cables. For some, the improvement although never significant is still quite clear and noticeable. For others, there is no improvement or it is subtle at best. And as always, the product's value is debatable.
post #4 of 19
Another great review dude. I enjoyed it alot and can't wait to hear a glite stack this weekend.
post #5 of 19
Nice detailed comparison.

I personally did not hear one bit of difference when I compared the DPS with the Elpac when I had the GL. I must of spent a couple hours straight switching between the two, using the same amp, until I drove myself nuts.

I bought the DPS based on someone saying that it resulted in a "MASSIVE" (his description) increase in bass response and clarity. It goes to show how highly subjective this hobby is.

In retrospect, I would of kept the DPS anyways because it looks cool when the GL is stacked on top of it. I returned it (and sold the GL) because I went with a GS-1.
post #6 of 19
Nice review. My Miova Power Cord just showed up. I'm about to take a listen after I shower. This thing is CRAZY massive. I'll see if I can notice a difference.
post #7 of 19
read this again. makes me want to buy a GLite some more!
post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLai View Post
Nice review. My Miova Power Cord just showed up. I'm about to take a listen after I shower. This thing is CRAZY massive. I'll see if I can notice a difference.
Well?!
post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmmtn4aj View Post
Well?!
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=227844
post #10 of 19
Oh.. whoops Care to try it without the UPS?
post #11 of 19
Another informative and well-written review by Asr. Much appreciated!
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmmtn4aj View Post
Oh.. whoops Care to try it without the UPS?
I might give it a shot in a few weeks. I just bought a new house and moved in last weekend, so I've been rather busy (why I haven't been on much lately). The PureAV is now downstairs with my LCD and I just bought a regular APC UPS for the audio upstairs.
post #13 of 19
the difference between the DPS and Elpac is easier to notice on more bass-oriented cans like the HD650.
post #14 of 19
wow exactly the comparison I was looking for! great read as always... nice addendum to that review you did for stereomojo too
post #15 of 19
thanks for another great review, how close was the Lite w/ DPS to the GS-1?
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